Insensitivity to fearful emotion for early ERP components in high autistic tendency is associated with lower magnocellular efficiency Academic Article uri icon


  • Low spatial frequency (LSF) visual information is extracted rapidly from fearful faces, suggesting magnocellular involvement. Autistic phenotypes demonstrate altered magnocellular processing, which we propose contributes to a decreased P100 evoked response to LSF fearful faces. Here, we investigated whether rapid processing of fearful facial expressions differs for groups of neurotypical adults with low and high scores on the Autistic Spectrum Quotient (AQ). We created hybrid face stimuli with low and high spatial frequency filtered, fearful, and neutral expressions. Fearful faces produced higher amplitude P100 responses than neutral faces in the low AQ group, particularly when the hybrid face contained a LSF fearful expression. By contrast, there was no effect of fearful expression on P100 amplitude in the high AQ group. Consistent with evidence linking magnocellular differences with autistic personality traits, our non-linear VEP results showed that the high AQ group had higher amplitude K2.1 responses than the low AQ group, which is indicative of less efficient magnocellular recovery. Our results suggest that magnocellular LSF processing of a human face may be the initial visual cue used to rapidly and automatically detect fear, but that this cue functions atypically in those with high autistic tendency.

publication date

  • 2017